PD: Student 'unintentionally' stunned with Taser

Posted at 11:24 PM, Oct 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-19 23:24:40-04

FAIRFIELD, Ohio — A school resource officer "unintentionally" stunned a Fairfield High School student with a Taser last month, Fairfield Police Chief Michael Dickey said.

School Resource Officer Kevin Harrington was sitting at his desk across from a 17-year-old female student on Sept. 25 when he started "messing with" the Taser, Dickey said. Harrington was showing the device to the student and assumed it wasn't loaded when it fired and struck her, according to a Fairfield Police report.

“It was unintentional. He had (the Taser) out in his hand in a situation where it shouldn’t have been out in his hand,” Dickey said. “He is remorseful.”

One of the barbs struck the teen in the chest, and the other barb was lodged in her shirt, Dickey said.

The girl was shocked for “one second," he said. She was hospitalized to remove the barb from her chest.

"It felt longer than one second," the teen said. "It hurt."

At left, the Taser barb removed from the girl's chest; at right, a hole medical staff cut in the girl's shirt to remove the barb. Photos by Tom McKee

She said her legs "felt like Jell-O" and that she had trouble walking to an ambulance.

"I could not stand on my own," she said.

Harrington told the investigating officer, Fairfield Police Lt. Ken Gerold, the student was in his office because he found her in a hallway crying. She had just had an argument with her boyfriend, he said.

“Officer Harrington asked [the student] if she wanted to talk in his office and she said that she did,” Gerold said. “Once they were in the office, they began to talk about what was upsetting (her) and Officer Harrington was attempting to calm her down and cheer her up.”

Harrington said he took the spare Taser cartridge out of the handle of the Taser during his conversation with the student, according to Gerold’s report. He then removed his Taser from the holster to show it to her, the report states.

Harrington then “activated the Taser” to spark it in front of her, according to the report.  

“He stated that the Taser cartridge on the desk made him think that the cartridge had been removed from the firing position on the Taser,” Gerold wrote in the report. “When I asked him about where the Taser was pointed, he admitted that he had the red aiming light pointed at (the student).”

When Harrington pulled the trigger, the cartridge fired the probes at her, Gerold said. The distance between the Taser and the student was about 3 to 4 feet, the report states.

Harrington said he "immediately turned the Taser off" after it fired, the report states. The student jolted from her chair, but Harrington told her to sit back down and apologized, Gerold said.

"Officer Harrington was very remorseful and apologetic during my time with him," Gerold wrote in his report.

Two other school officials were in the room at the time: a teacher and the school's assistant principal. They were there to view the video camera screens in Harrington's office, according to the police report.

Neither school official saw Harrington fire the Taser, but each heard a "buzz and popping" noise, the report states.

The school nurse was called to treat the student before Fairfield medics arrived.

Harrington said his office door was open the entire time he met with the student. He said the two other school officials entered his office about 15 minutes into his conversation with the teen, the police report states.

Gerold interviewed the student during his investigation. She said she did not remember the door being open or Harrington removing a cartridge from the Taser, the report states.

The teen told Gerold this wasn't the first time Harrington pointed his Taser at a student, according to the police report.

"(The student) stated that when Officer Harrington pointed the Taser at her and put the red light on her chest it made her uncomfortable," Gerold wrote. "She stated that she had seen Officer Harrington point the Taser at other kids in the school in the past."

A teacher at the school also told Gerold she had seen Harrington point his Taser at students.

Harrington later told Gerold that in his more than three years working at the high school, he has taken his Taser out of the holster and "joked" with students about 15 to 20 times, the report states.

"(Harrington) stated that he only did this in a joking manner and only with kids whose parents he knows wouldn't be upset by it," Gerold wrote. "He also stated that he would never do so again."

Dickey said Harrington accepted a three-day unpaid suspension, which will be served on days when school is not in session. He was also ordered to receive additional Taser use training, which he completed Sept. 28.

Harrington was written up for violating two policies regarding conduct and the handling of departmental weapons, according to the chief.

Those policies include:

Standard of Conduct I: Employees must perform their duties in a manner which earns and maintains the trust and respect of their supervisors, other employees, and the public.

Standard of Conduct VI: Employees must perform their duties in a safe manner.

Gerold said his investigation showed no indication that Harrington's actions were done with "any malice or anger toward the student or anyone else."

"He was displaying it in a manner in a situation that really did not call for it being displayed," Dickey said. "It was a non-adversarial type interview. It was a counseling session. And, it's really inexplicable as to why he did it. Tasers are obviously not toys to be played with."

The girl's family didn't think the discipline was enough and wants Harrington fired.

"I can't believe that an officer with that much experience would point his Taser at the chest of my daughter," the girl's mother said. "A three-day suspension is a joke."